SAN ANTONIO - Ron Johnson was born in St. Paul in 1959. His family left Minnesota when he was 7. He now lives in Kansas City, Mo. His wife graduated from the University of Kansas medical school. The Johnsons are Jayhawks fans through and through.
Ron was sitting in the front row of the Alamodome stands on Friday, watching the Jayhawks go through the 50-minute practice session provided for each of the Final Four teams.
He was asked The Question directed at all KU basketball fans: Are you still mad at Roy Williams for leaving for North Carolina in 2003?
"I never was that upset," Johnson said. "It wasn't anything about Kansas that caused him to leave. It was Roy's strong ties to North Carolina."
Johnson paused and said: "There were people who had a much stronger reaction than me. You have to understand, we think we have the premier basketball program in the country. We can't figure out why anyone would leave.
"Heck, basketball was invented in Kansas."
Actually, it was Massachusetts, Ron. "OK, but Dr. Naismith moved to Kansas, and we figure he hung up his peach baskets in Allen Fieldhouse," he said.
Gary Smart was sitting next to Johnson. He was dressed in full Jayhawks regalia, even though he lives in Austin, Texas.
"I lived in Kansas for most of my life," Smart said. "People are trying to downplay the Roy-Kansas. Most of us, anyway. There are some T-shirts around that say something about 'Benedict Williams.' "
This evening in the national semifinals, North Carolina and Kansas will play for the first time since Williams changed jobs.
"Somebody said the other day, 'If Kansas wins, they are going to forgive you,' " Williams said Friday. "I'd rather them not forgive me."
Williams is a notoriously emotional person. "When things are going good or bad ... it's hard to find a time when Coach is not emotional," Tar Heels guard Marcus Ginyard said. "I've seen him cry. And he's seen us cry."
That means Williams doesn't last long when trying to be glib about the ridicule and accusations of disloyalty he faced in leaving Kansas right after the 2003 national championship loss to Syracuse.
"I've said it, 15 years I gave my heart, my body, my soul [to Kansas],'' Williams said Friday. "The fact that some people will say some things or do some things, that hurts.
"If you see a bathroom and instead of saying 'men's room' it says 'Roy's room,' that doesn't make you feel good. If somebody puts your picture up over a commode, that doesn't make you feel good."
Williams was answering questions at a media session before North Carolina practiced at the Alamodome. He didn't know if a Kansas mob of fans would be waiting (it wasn't).
"If I go out there and 37 people throw tomatoes at me, that will bother me a little bit," he said. "But I've been hit by a rotten grapefruit at Duke. I knew they weren't throwing it at me. They were throwing at Coach Smith. They were bad throwers."
That was in 1979, when Williams was a Carolina assistant to Dean Smith.
Bill Self went from Illinois to Kansas to replace Williams. He had some rocky times -- particularly, first-round NCAA losses to Bucknell and Bradley in 2005 and 2006 -- but now he's in a first Final Four. This allowed him to talk as a statesman when asked about Williams and KU fans.
"I think if our fans spend their time rooting against an individual, then their energies aren't channeled in the right direction," Self said. "... Five years is enough time for things to be let go."
Self has his own rumors to deal with at the moment. He is an Oklahoma State alumnus, and there's speculation that OSU's billionaire backer, T. Boone Pickens, is willing to pay Self a king's ransom to take over Kansas' Big 12 rival in Stillwater, Okla.
On Friday, Self denied the latest OSU reports and talked about a meeting that has been scheduled next week with KU athletic director Lew Perkins.
Is Self hoping to receive a contract extension?
"Every day," he said. "I hope Lew wants to talk about something in that regard, as opposed to where we're going to play golf."
Patrick Reusse can be heard weekdays on AM-1500 KSTP at 6:45 and 7:45 a.m. and 4:40 p.m. • email@example.com